Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sens re-sign Winchester

The Sens announced today that they've re-signed winger Jesse Winchester to a two-year contract. The Sens' press release can be read here.

Winchester only played one game last year, and may have gotten a little extra exposure on this blog thanks to the story I wrote about him for the newspaper at his former college (Colgate). GM Bryan Murray had some pretty glowing praise for Winchester, however, and I don't think he's gotten the credit that he deserves in some of the previews and off-season game plans I've seen. With the size and age he's got, I have a feeling that Winchester might be playing as high as the second-line for next season, depending on what other signings there are in the summer.

I haven't seen any numbers for the contract, but I'll post them in the left-hand ticker when I find them.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Salary cap to go up again

Gary Bettman made his State of the NHL news conference before the Stanley Cup final opener yesterday (Detroit beat Pittsburgh 4-0, in case you hadn't heard). In it, he said that the NHL set a record in average attendance, and also had highest-ever revenues--meaning that the salary cap will go up once again this season. From the New York Times' Slapshot blog:

We would be remiss if we didn’t once again thank our fans. We reached 21 million in attendance for the regular season for the first time ever. We averaged over 17,000 fans per game for the first time ever. And our fans, we believe, were treated to an exciting, entertaining and competitive regular season from Game No. 1 to Game 1,230. The regular season was incredibly competitive. It went down to the last day of the season to see how the playoffs were going to play out. And every game mattered. And that’s the way we think it should be.

Revenues will exceed $2.5 billion this year. That, too, is a record. Our franchises are more stable than ever. And the relationship that we have with Paul Kelly and the Players’ Association continues to grow, and it gives me hope for the future. With cooperation, I know we can explore many more upsides that are available for us to, together, grow this game.

With this news, Bettman was asked a very pressing question about the smaller-market teams; namely, how will they even meet the floor of the salary cap as it continues to rise?
Revenues are going up for virtually everybody. Revenue sharing is intended to help bridge that gap. And as revenues go up, the amount of revenue sharing goes up. The system in that regard is working the way we had anticipated that it would. And I think clubs have demonstrated that you don’t have to be at the cap or even at the mid-point to make the playoffs and be competitive.

So I’m not concerned. It may be, over time, we have to keep looking at the numbers to see if the formulas are working exactly right. But I think it should be okay.
There's also the concern that the rift between big-market teams that can spend right up to the cap, and small-market teams that have to operate on a self-specified budget, will grow. And we might very well see the economic parity that the new CBA was supposed to bring about simply become re-established when Toronto can spend $60M or something, but Carolina has set their own budget at $40M.

Anyway, given that Ottawa already has $44.676M committed with a number of players left to sign, and increasing cap is good for us. Maybe Antoine Vermette, Chris Kelly, and Andrej Meszaros can all come back...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Draft tickets on sale today

Just a reminder to everyone that wants tickets to the upcoming NHL draft in Ottawa: Tickets are being given out starting today at 10am (ET) at Ottawa-area Sens stores, SportChek Sports Experts (thanks Chris) and (I think) Capital Tickets locations.

The tickets are free and you can get up to four per requester.

I'll be getting mine today. And swing on over the Scarlett Ice to check out a Sens blogger ho-down that should be happening around Draft Day. Once again, I'll be there.

Monday, May 19, 2008

WC08: Canada loses final to Russia

In the gold-medal game, Canada gave up two two-goal leads to lose to Russia in overtime by a final score of 5-4. Canada wanted to become the first team to win gold at home in twenty years, and Russia wanted to end their thirteen-year gold drought at the World Championships.

Dany Heatley scored a goal and an assist in the game, extending his tournament-leading points total to 20. He also won the tournament's most valuable player award, but didn't look to enthused. It was obvious he was more upset about the loss.

Although Jason Spezza didn't get any points in the final, his play had improved over the course of the tournament--possibly as his injury became less of an issue.

The final statistics of the Sens' five players in the tournament:

Dany Heatley (CAN): 9GP, 12G, 8A, 20P, 4 PIM, +13, 40 SOG, 16:07 AVG TOI
Christoph Schubert (GER): 6GP, 1G, 2A, 3P, 12 PIM, -2, 11 SOG, 19:36 AVG TOI
Jason Spezza (CAN): 9GP, 1G, 2A, 3P, 0 PIM, +5, 8 SOG, 10:36 AVG TOI
Kaspars Daugavins (LAT): 6GP, 0G, 0A, 0P, 0 PIM, -1, 6 SOG, 7:50 AVG TOI

Martin Gerber
(SUI): 3W, 2L, .879 SP, 3.15 GAA, 1A

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Draft update: Who might the Sens pick?

Although the Sens lost early in the first round this season, at least the team is going to get a relatively high draft pick for the 2008 NHL entry draft on home turf. The Sens have 18th overall, not as high as it could be, but a lot higher than 29th overall, as was the case last year.

The newest issue of The Hockey News listed skaters and goalies throughout the world on their own top-60 prospect list, and thanks to what many are saying is a very deep draft class this year, there should still be some talent when Bryan Murray gets to picking.

Although there's no way of knowing how picks are going to go, and inevitably one or two teams go off the map, I'll go over a quick run-down of who THN has ranked around the Sens' picking spot.

The 17th- and 18th-ranked prospects are two left-handed defensemen, Luca Sbisa from Switzerland and Colby Robak from Manitoba, respectively. Robak has two inches and almost 20 pounds on the Swiss prospect, but Sbisa scored more points in fewer games while both played in the WHL. The Sens could definitely use some help filling out their ever-shrinking pool of defensive prospects, so one of these two might be high on Murray's list.

Another pressing concern is goaltending, and it's coincidental that the highest-ranked goaltender in THN's rankings is 19th overall, Swedish goaltender Jacob Markstrom. Although he's only 176 lbs, he's 6'3", and that kind of size is beneficial (just ask Patrick Lalime), and combined with his reported athleticism this kid could be very good. It's often a crapshoot drafting goalies, as Senators fans and management know, so Murray might be more interested in a more proven quantity.

After Markstrom, the next highest-ranked goalie is Chet Pickard of Tri-City in the WHL. THN points out some obvious and not-so-obvious similarities between Pickard and one-time mentor Carey Price, so if the Sens see Price as highly as the Habs do, then Pickard might not be a bad choice.

If the Sens are looking for a forward, they might want to look at the Great Belarussian Hope, Mikhail Stefanovich. He came over to play in the QMJHL last season, amassing 66 points in 62 games, and his size--6'2", 202 pounds--is nothing to scoff at. THN has Stefanovich ranked number 20. With Murray's penchant for big North Americans, though, he might be more interested A.J. Jenks, ranked by THN as number 26, who's 6'1", 206 lbs, and is seen with a lot of upside.

Or hey, if no one picks Jared Staal (ranked by THN number 31) by that point, he comes from a pretty good pedigree.

WC08: Heat continues to be on

Photo from Used without permission.

Dany Heatley
's torrent pace at the 2008 World Championships has continued through the past three games, and he's now got 13 points in the six games played. Jason Spezza, meanwhile, continues to struggle, and his demotion to the fourth-line was not without warrant. Team Canada clinched first place in their pool with a perfect 6-0 record, good for 18 points (three per regulation-time win), and the playoffs begin with a quarter-final rematch with the Norway. Canada barely beat Norway 2-1 in round-robin play.

Dany Heatley: 6GP, 9G, 4A, 13P, 4 PIM +10, 27 SOG, 15:17 TOI
Jason Spezza: 6GP, 1G, 1A, 2P, 0 PIM, +5, 6 SOG, 10:31 TOI

Christoph Schubert, meanwhile, continues to lead his German squad from the back-end, and he's second on the team in average ice time per game. He's also got more points than Spezza, although he is getting significantly more ice time. The Germans finished with a 2-4 record, not good enough for the playoffs, but good enough to steer clear of the relegation round.

Christoph Schubert: 6GP, 1G, 2A, 3P, 12 PIM, -2, 11 SOG, 19:36 TOI

On the Switzerland team, Martin Gerber hasn't been playing as many games as Jonas Hiller and third-stringer Ronnie Reuger are getting some extra playing time. He's still got the team's best numbers, though, in all categories. When Russia and Switzerland play tomorrow in quarter-final play, count on Gerbs getting the start.

Martin Gerber: 3W, 1L, 0G, 1A, 1P, .912 SP, 2.25 GAA

Kaspars Daugavins and his Latvian squad fared about as well as Schubert's German squad, which was likely surprising to many. They finished with two wins (over Slovenia and Norway) and four losses, and stay in the first division of the IIHF.

Kaspars Daugavins: 6GP, 0G, 0A, 0P, 0 PIM, -1, 6 SOG, 7:50 TOI

EDIT: For some reason I wrote that Daugavins was on Slovenia. He's on Latvia. I changed the article so it was right... that's why mainstream media has fact-checkers and proofreading, I guess.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Is Spezza on the block?

Since the Sens were kicked out quickly in the playoffs, there has been some rumblings that perhaps Jason Spezza isn't as valuable as was once thought, and some have suggested maybe he is disposable. Despite the fact that Bryan Murray quickly rejected rumours, citing his half of the 6-year commitment made to Spezza, they persist. Although I don't like to cite Hockeybuzz, mainly due to the fact that anonymous blogger Eklund has nothing to lose with his 'rumours', and that resident Senators' blogger Kevin Lee is... well, not so great to read, they do make interesting discussion, especially in the off-season. And today, Eklund brought up rumours about some teams with interest in Spezza:
According to another source the Hawks and Sharks have interest in Jason Spezza. No word yet on what either teams may put forth for Spezza. I am of the belief that Spezza is a diamond in the rough but needs a new start...
Not just Chicago and San Jose, I bet there are 29 teams in the NHL--especially Toronto--that have an interest in Spezza. The discussion of Spezza being on the block originates from three main concerns, most of which stem from the belief that he's failed to mature his game significantly since joining the NHL:
  1. Spezza is too soft, and unable to compete when he's pressed physically.
  2. Spezza gives the puck away with ill-timed, no-look passes.
  3. Spezza isn't consistent, and offsets his great plays with poor play, and can't step up when needed.
Whether or not you (or I) believe these are true, they seem to me as the biggest critiques of Spezza's game. Under the contract the Sens signed, Spezza has a no-trade clause that comes into play after the first two years of the contract. So, if the Sens decide to trade, him, it will have to be within the next two seasons.

The biggest thing about the above-noted problems, though, is that these are foibles that can be corrected with mental and/or physical training. The skills that he has, and has demonstrated, aren't so easy to teach or to learn. That is probably why his value remains so high despite the well-known knocks on his game, and his (so far) poor showing in the current World Championships; teams always believe they can reclaim a player with potential.

Let's have a discussion in the comments; who thinks Spezza is dispensable? Are you ready to give up on the Spezza Project? What is the minimum return? Who would we get in his place on the top line, especially with a couple of centres in Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly both possibly leaving the team?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sens coaching update

As we all know, the Sens are looking for a new head coach. If reports in the major papers are correct, there should be no shortage of candidates, with as many as 10 head coaching vacancies expected as well as the possibility for old-timers such as Pat Quinn and Pat Burns coming back, the Sens list of suitors won't be short.

The frontrunner on my list might very well be Joel Quenneville, recently relieved of his duties with the Colorado Avalanche. In fact, it may have been less the choice of Colorado GM Francois Giguere to let Quenneville go than the decision of Quenneville to pursue other opportunities. Included on this list will certainly be the Toronto Maple Leafs, Q's favourite team growing up, his hometown, and a team he played in two seasons with. But there is a lot of uncertainty with that franchise, and it won't be easy for whatever coach goes in there; Ottawa might be a nice alternative, with our stable of offensive stars likely clamouring for another kick at the Stanley Cup.

Aside from Quenneville, a few former Leafs coaches are probably on the Sens (not-so) short list, including the aforementioned Burns and Quinn as well as the recently-fired Paul Maurice. Quinn seems like the kind of coach GM Bryan Murray might get along with, but he might not fit well with the Sens' offensive stars. He was also a hated man in this city, and I don't know how fans feel about taking on our former arch-nemesis. Maurice, similarly, isn't tops in the books for the Sens organizations, and he might have killed any opportunity for this team when he referred to the Sens a bunch of purse-swingers. Burns, on the other hand, is well-respected, seems to be doing well in the World Championships right now, and was coach for the Leafs before they really started a rivalry with the Sens. He seems like a pretty good option for the time being.

Then there's John Tortorella who, fairly or not, may be in the hunt for a new coaching job if what some Tampa Bay Lightning pundits are predicting comes true and Tampa fires him. I'm not sure I like the prospect of this guy behind the bench, because he sure doesn't fit in with Ottawa's (the city) relaxed culture, and I doubt players like Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza will appreciate his attitude. He might just be what this team needs, though, and he's not afraid to send some players a wake up call. Similar in attitude to Tortorella is Bob Hartley, formerly of the Atlanta Thrashers, who's from the area and has a bit of a mean streak. He'd have no problem sending some signals to Sens players, but there are rumblings that Heatley isn't Hartley's biggest fan. Apparently Murray is looking for a coach to hold the Sens' top guns accountable, according to the Ottawa Sun, so maybe one of these two are just what the doctor ordered.

There's also the option of bringing in a new guy to the NHL, and word on the street has OHL coach Peter DeBoer and AHL coach Randy Cunneyworth the next in line for NHL gigs. Although I don't know much about their styles, Cunneyworth was the Sens captain for a few years in the late 90s, and he played for the Ottawa 67s. So, Murray, there's your Ottawa connection.

Or maybe the Sens are planning on sticking with what they've got. According to the Sun, Sens owner Eugene Melnyk asked Murray to consider the dual role of Head Coach/GM for next season. Although it's unclear whether or not Murray's interested, it's an intriguing prospect. It can't be easy, though, and I think it would be better to allow Murray to do one job very well instead of two jobs with mediocrity.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

WC08: Another two games, another six points for Heatley

Photos from Used without permission.

If Dany Heatley is always going to play this well for Team Canada, maybe the Senators should drop the colours black and gold from their uniforms and just run with red and white.

After four points in his first game against Slovenia, Heater kept his pace with another four against Latvia on Sunday, May 4, and then added another two--both goals--against the United States on Tuesday, May 6. He continues to lead the tournament with 10 points in three games, featuring six goals including two game winners and four assists.

It can't hurt to be playing alongside Rick Nash and Ryan Getzlaf, though. I wonder if we could lure either of those guys from their respective teams... I doubt it. Jason Spezza got his first point in the tournament with an assist on Martin St. Louis' goal against Latvia.

With the three wins, Canada has clinched first place in Pool B and will play whoever finishes second in Pool C, which features Finland, Slovakia, Germany, and Norway. If my math is correct, Canada will be playing Slovakia is the Slovaks beat the undefeated Fins tomorrow, but if Finland wins then Canada would be playing Germany.

Heatley (CAN): 3GP, 6G, 4A, 10P, 13 SOG, 4 PIM, +7, 14:54 AVG TOI
Spezza (CAN): 3GP, 0G, 1A, 1P, 2 SOG, 0 PIM, +3, 12:15 AVG TOI

Speaking of the Germans, they would win the head-to-head tie-breaker thanks to a 4-2 victory over Slovakia on Monday, May 5. Christoph Schubert--who, for the record, is playing defence in the tournament--finished the game with an assist and four shots on goal in 20:18 in ice time. He finished even on the night because his assist came on a powerplay.

Schubert (DEU): 2GP, 0G, 1A, 1P, 6 SOG, 0 PIM, -1, 21:23 AVG TOI

Then comes Martin Gerber, who improved his tournament record to 2-0 with a 2-1 victory for Switzerland over Belarus. He stopped 22 of 23 shots on net, surrendering a goal to only Konstantin Koltsov of the Belarussians. His goals-against average and save percentage are right up there with the tournament leaders, and given his knack for stepping it up in the Suisse jersey (we all remember when he shut Canada out in the 2006 Olympics), he gives another reason for the Sens to switch the uniforms to red and white. And he's even got an assist, which puts him among the 10 Swiss players who've recorded at least one point.

Gerber (SUI): 2-0, 1A, 2GA, .959 SV%, 1.00 GAA

Finally is Sens prospect Kaspars Daugavins, whose Latvian squad stayed away from a relegation playoff by beating Slovenia on Tuesday, May 6. Snoop Dauggy-Daugg hasn't done much in the way of offense for his team, with no points through three games, but he's probably just waiting until the time is right. Wait and see. Also in Daugavins' favour are the wicked-awesome Latvian uniforms, whose simplicity really goes to show that you don't need crazy designs to make nice jerseys (I'm talking to you, RBK designers. And you, Buffalo Sabres designers).

Daugavins (LAT): 3GP, 0G, 0A, 0P, 5 SOG, 0 PIM, -1, 12:45 AVG TOI

Sunday, May 4, 2008

WC08: Switzerland beats France, Germany loses to Finland

After another day at the 2008 World Championships, a couple more Ottawa Senators got some playing time under their belt. Here's the run-down of how they did:

Martin Gerber stopped 24 of 25 shots in a 4-1 victory for Switzerland over France. He out-dueled French goaltender Cristobal Huet, who was the darling of the fans in Quebec City even after being traded from the Montreal Canadiens. The only goal The Gerber allowed was off a shot by Julien Desrosiers the 20:00 mark of the second period. Video review confirmed it crossed the goal line before the buzzer sounded. Switzerland's next game is against Belarus at 1 p.m. on Monday.

Stats: 1GP, 1W, 0L, 1.00 GAA, 0.960 SP

Christoph Schubert made his debut for this year's German national team in a losing effort, dropping the tournament opener 5-1 against Finland. Schubert played more ice time than any skater on either team with 22:29 at the end of the night. He had two shots on goal, and finished -1. Germany's next game is Monday at 7:15 p.m.

Stats: 1GP, 0G, 0A, 0P, 2SOG, -1

Dany Heatley is still leading the tournament with 3 goals and 1 assist, and he'll look to add to that total later today in Canada's game against Latvia. Jason Spezza will be looking to get his first point of the tournament for Canada as well.

EDIT: Thanks to Simon for pointing out that Sens prospect Kaspars Daugavins is playing for the Latvian team. In their opening match against the United States, Daugavins played 12:49 in ice time, had one shot on goal, and was even. He'll be playing against Canada Sunday afternoon.

STATS: 1GP, 0G, 0A, 0P, 1SOG, even

Friday, May 2, 2008

WC08: Heatley kicks Slovenia's ass

(AFP/Timothy A. Clary)

In Canada's opening match against Slovenia, Dany Heatley scored three goals and added an assist en route to a 5-1 ker-smooshing of the small south-central European republic. He assisted on the first goal, scored the second--which turned out to be the winner--as well as the fourth and fifth goals. Heatley is now Canada's all-time leading scorer in the annual World Championship tournaments after surpassing Marcel Dionne. As a Sens fan, I hope he doesn't score any more after this year due to consistently long playoff runs for the Senators.

The story of the game might have been Slovenian goaltender Robert Kristan, who faced 65 shots on the night, including 31 in the second period alone.

Anze Kopitar, the only Slovenian to ever play in the NHL, scored the only goal on Canada goaltender Cam Ward.

I didn't actually see the game, so I don't know how well Jason Spezza did. He didn't get any points, but that doesn't necessarily mean he played poorly. Watch SportsCentre for highlights.

Canada's next game is Sunday afternoon at 3:30 versus Latvia. It should be another win for Canada, but will be exciting nonetheless--apparently a lot of Latvian fans made the trip across the ocean to see the tournament.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Brunnstrom Watch: Day four

According to, Fabian Brunnstrom is not interested in signing with the Ottawa Senators:
J.P. Barry, the agent for the 23-year-old Swedish Elite player, said Brunnstrom is visiting Dallas, Denver and Montreal and meeting with the respective teams' management. Barry said Brunnstrom was in Dallas the last two days and will be in Denver tonight before moving to Montreal for the weekend."

Right now he wants to focus on these three (teams)," Barry told HC@Noon hosts Darren Millard and Bill Berg. "He's at the point where he wants to make a decision and if I'm going to add a couple of teams to the list I have to convince him to do it now. I just want to make sure he makes the best choice for himself and he sees as many teams as he can."
Thanks to Black Aces for pointing this out. When reading his post, though, excercise precaution: Jeremy Milks, the author, pulled a Don Brennan and fabricated a rumour--albeit based on more than Brennan's normal rumours--about Sens GM Bryan Murray shopping around Dean McAmmond. Rumours circulated that Murray was disappointed by the contract offered to McAmmond by former GM John Muckler, but honoured the word the franchise gave. Murray used McAmmond effectively as a coach, though, and unless the new coach--whoever it turns out to be--absolutely lambastes D-Mac, I don't see why the team would try and unload a speedy and reliable depth scorer and penalty killer who makes less than $1M.

EDIT: That's not to take anything away from Milks' blog; it's a great read, and I recommend all of our readers read Black Aces after getting your daily (or sometimes by-daily) dose of Sens Army Blog. Just a difference of opinion, I suppose.
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